Ep. 11: Open Doors and Gospel Clarity
April 13, 2020 Speaker: Jeff Brewer
Topic: Prayer Passage: Colossians 4:2–4:6
Hello, Hope Fellowship! Welcome to our podcast “Full of Hope: Encouraging One Another with the Word of God,” where we seek to regularly equip the people of Hope Fellowship with truth from Scripture in order to help us cling to our Savior during troubled times.
We’re going to look at the end of Colossians today at how Paul concludes his letter with a short section about prayer. I know I constantly feel like Jesus’ disciples when they asked him to “teach us to pray.” I think the end of Colossians helps to instruct us about how and what we might pray for. So if you feel today that you’re not sure what to pray—Paul has an answer for you.
He calls believers to “continue steadfastly in prayer,” or, like another translation puts it, to ”devote themselves to prayer.”
I think it can be challenging when we read to devote ourselves to prayer for a couple of reasons. First, we might be under the mistaken idea that only people like monks and nuns are able to be those who devote themselves to prayer off in some distant monastery. Or that it is for people with a lot of time on their hands. Also, we can probably misunderstand this verse because we don’t feel all that good at praying, so we wonder how in the world we’re going to devote more time to something we feel so bad at.
Doug Moo, in his commentary on Colossians, makes the helpful point that this means that prayer is to be a standard feature of the Christian life. He writes,
“The point, then, is not that believers should pray with intensity when they pray, but that they should pray habitually and with perseverance.” (Douglas Moo, Colossians and Philemon, Pillar Commentary Series)
“We should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1)
“Continue steadfastly in prayer.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
I wonder if you feel like me during this time of quarantine and you find yourself praying more because prayer seems to be more purposeful and needed.
John Piper wrote about prayer in a way that has always stuck with me:
“We have so domesticated prayer that it is no longer, in many of our lives and churches, what it was created to be—a wartime walkie-talkie for the accomplishment of mission commands.”
Sometimes it’s easy to keep prayer on the level of a few basic requests about health and safety. There’s nothing wrong with praying for these things, but I think we often lack the desperation to cry out to God based on how dependent we are on him to work.
If nothing else during this coronavirus crisis, I think the church is praying more. There are online prayer meetings being organized by The Gospel Coalition and Acts 29, among others. This crisis is, I pray, giving us a renewed sense of the church’s place in the world and the mission God has for us. It’s reminding us that life can take sudden and tragic turns. That everything we take for granted as normal can be upended in a moment.
And I think this drives us to our knees more. It helps us devote ourselves to prayer more habitually and with more perseverance.
But in Colossians 4, Paul doesn’t just speak generally about prayer—he’s asking for prayer for himself. Whenever I hear Paul asking for prayer in passages like this and in Ephesians 6, it encourages me because it is a reminder that if someone we view as a spiritual leader like the Apostle Paul needed to ask for prayer, how much more do we need to do the same!
Listen to what he asks them to pray for in Colossians 4:3:
Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
He’s asking them to pray that God opens a door for the word to declare the mystery of Christ. It’s encouraging to me that we are to pray for God to open doors, rather than praying for boldness to open the doors ourselves. God is so sovereign that we can pray, “God, I know that it is your will for me to speak boldly and declare the mystery of Christ. So would you open a door for me today and help me realize that door is open?”
If we are praying for God to open doors for the gospel, we will be more likely to walk through the door.
But if you notice, Paul doesn’t just ask that God would open a door, but that he would declare the gospel clearly, which is how he ought to speak. So we pray for open doors, and we pray that we would take the opportunity to make the gospel clear when we walk through the door.
I so often miss the open doors and even if I walk through them, it’s easy to speak only generally about God. Paul was asking for gospel clarity as well!
But before we end, it’s not just gospel clarity and open doors that Paul is asking God for—he ends with what seems like a unrelated command, in verses 4–5:
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
But instead of this just being some closing remarks, I think it directly relates to his call to prayer.
Paul’s call is to be walking in wisdom toward outsiders and making the best use of the time. We’re going to be placing ourselves in situations where we can walk through the open doors that we have been praying for. If we are walking in wisdom toward outsiders, we are going to be more aware of how our outward conduct matters. If our speech is gracious we will know how to answer each person and make the gospel clear in the given situation.
We’re in a unique time, but it should be our prayer that this unique time causes us to be more deliberate in prayer, praying for open doors—doors that might never have opened if this crisis had not happened. We pray that we would speak plainly and clearly about the gospel and conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel, not wasting time. We can be praying in faith that God will help us know how to answer each person as the door opens.
And so, Hope Fellowship: remember, we have hope in Christ. Let’s encourage ourselves with this hope and by making that hope known in a struggling world. See you next time.
Music by Joseph McDade. https://josephmcdade.com. Used with permission.